Affordable Europe: Paris sales that are truly sales

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In the U.S., the word "sale" doesn't inspire a call to action because it seems every store is having one all the time. (We've all seen the "going out of business blowout" that lasts for years.)

In Paris, though, a sale is really an event. Regulated by the government, city-wide sales are sanctioned only in July and January, and savings are considerable. This year's July sale starts a little earlier than July, on June 25, and lasts until August 2. Discounts range from 30 to 50 percent.

Here are some tips:

Visit the department stores first: Galeries Lafayette, Le Bon Marché, Printemps, and La Samaritaine.

--See an item that's not on sale? Ask at the customer service desk if there is a discount card for non-E.U. citizens, offering about 10 percent off. Bring your passport as proof of I.D.

--Doing a lot of shopping? Ask for an English-speaking personal shopper. It's free, with no obligation to buy.

--Looking for cheaper items? Head to the stock shops in the sixth arrondissement around rue St-Placide at the St-Suplice subway stop. Here, you'll find the French brand that's currently most popular with Americans, A.P.C..

This weekend, June 14-15, there’s a sale that’s happening in advance of the better known ones. La Grande Braderie de la Mode is offering major-name designer clothing, cosmetics and perfume for up to 70 percent off. The list of labels sounds like a mantra from Edina Monsoon (of "Absolutely Fabulous"): Lacroix (darling), Gaultier, Chanel, Lagerfeld, Comme des Garcons, Rykiel, Mugler, Marant, Dries Van Noten, and Cacharel. The event is a benefit for AIDES, the leading organization helping people with HIV/AIDS. You'll find the store at Passage du Désir, 85/87, rue du Faubourg St. Martin, 75010. Saturday 9 a.m. - 7; Sunday noon to 6.

Budget Travel tip: To save on lodging costs, consider lodging with a Parisian for a few days. Some city-dwellers rent out rooms while waiting to find the right longer-term apartment-mate. Find listings at coloc.fr, expatriates.com, fusac.fr, and paris.craigslist.com.

—Laurie Pike, blogging for our Affordable Europe series.

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